Repopulation of interacting tumor cells during fractionated radiotherapy: stochastic modeling of the tumor control probability

Med Phys. 2013 Dec;40(12):121716. doi: 10.1118/1.4829495.


Purpose: Optimal treatment planning for fractionated external beam radiation therapy requires inputs from radiobiology based on recent thinking about the "five Rs" (repopulation, radiosensitivity, reoxygenation, redistribution, and repair). The need is especially acute for the newer, often individualized, protocols made feasible by progress in image guided radiation therapy and dose conformity. Current stochastic tumor control probability (TCP) models incorporating tumor repopulation effects consider "stem-like cancer cells" (SLCC) to be independent, but the authors here propose that SLCC-SLCC interactions may be significant. The authors present a new stochastic TCP model for repopulating SLCC interacting within microenvironmental niches. Our approach is meant mainly for comparing similar protocols. It aims at practical generalizations of previous mathematical models.

Methods: The authors consider protocols with complete sublethal damage repair between fractions. The authors use customized open-source software and recent mathematical approaches from stochastic process theory for calculating the time-dependent SLCC number and thereby estimating SLCC eradication probabilities. As specific numerical examples, the authors consider predicted TCP results for a 2 Gy per fraction, 60 Gy protocol compared to 64 Gy protocols involving early or late boosts in a limited volume to some fractions.

Results: In sample calculations with linear quadratic parameters α = 0.3 per Gy, α∕β = 10 Gy, boosting is predicted to raise TCP from a dismal 14.5% observed in some older protocols for advanced NSCLC to above 70%. This prediction is robust as regards: (a) the assumed values of parameters other than α and (b) the choice of models for intraniche SLCC-SLCC interactions. However, α = 0.03 per Gy leads to a prediction of almost no improvement when boosting.

Conclusions: The predicted efficacy of moderate boosts depends sensitively on α. Presumably, the larger values of α are the ones appropriate for individualized treatment protocols, with the smaller values relevant only to protocols for a heterogeneous patient population. On that assumption, boosting is predicted to be highly effective. Front boosting, apart from practical advantages and a possible advantage as regards iatrogenic second cancers, also probably gives a slightly higher TCP than back boosting. If the total number of SLCC at the start of treatment can be measured even roughly, it will provide a highly sensitive way of discriminating between various models and parameter choices. Updated mathematical methods for calculating repopulation allow credible generalizations of earlier results.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cell Count
  • Dose Fractionation, Radiation*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / radiation effects
  • Probability
  • Stochastic Processes
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome